Climate Idols in Duluth compete for sustainable lifestyles

From left: Lee Kohlin (age 10), Tari Rayala, Pat Kohlin and Matt Kohlin (age 12) before heading off to complete the transportation stage in the Climate Idol Challenge. Photo Credit: Scott Schmidley Four families in Duluth take the term “save the earth” to a new level. As part of a year-long Climate Idol competition, the families engage in four challenge phases: energy, transportation, food and lifestyle.

Each phase is designed to teach the Idol teams how to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, one that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted into the atmosphere.

“The main thing is for individuals and families to realize that they can make, really, very easy common sense changes to their daily lives to save the environment,” Rebecca Covington, Climate Idols intern, said.

The program strives to create an approachable challenge for the idol teams and members of the community.

“We hope by having a diverse set of Climate Idol challenge teams, that they [the community] will be able to relate and say, oh I have family, I have kids, I’m really busy, I have a chaotic lifestyle but if there is a family with children doing this, there are probably things that I can adopt and do myself,” Covington said.

As part of the Climate Idol Challenge, the families drove in 2010 Kia Sportages. The vehicles receive 21 MPG (miles per gallon) when city driving, and 29 MPG on the highway. Photo Credit: Scott Schmidley

The families kicked off the Eco-Driving Challenge of the Transportation Phase on Tuesday, March 14, at KIA of Duluth. Each family will work through four challenges within the Transportation Phase: Challenge 1: Learn ways to drop fuel bill Challenge 2: Practice alternative ways of transportation Challenge 3: Ride the city bus or share rides Challenge 4: Reduce overall automobile use

Each challenge in the phase is designed to encourage families to learn and master sustainability techniques to reduce gasoline consumption by 12 percent at the end of the phase.

“We would love for people to get off cars and start walking and biking and using buses, but it’s not real, and it’s not possible for everybody every day,” Covington said.  “We know that we need to use our cars, we do, we are that type of community, we are that type of a culture. But when we do use our cars, there is a smart way to do that where we can reduce our energy usage and gas consumption.”

Pat Kohlin and Tari Rayala along with their two children, Matt (12) and Lee (10) Kohlin, make up one Climate Idol family. The parents have been married for 22 years and have lived in Duluth for the past 17 years. Kohlin is employed at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Recreational Sports Outdoor Programs. Rayala is an architect with the city of Duluth. Both boys attend Duluth area schools. Together the family <> enjoys making its own maple syrup and plans to raise chickens in the spring.

“The second phase really scares us a little bit,”  Kohlin said. “We both drive separate vehicles to work about twenty miles. We are really gonna tank this one.”

Though lifestyle change may prove to be difficult, the family agreed the challenge has been a great learning experience and has already generated discussion among community remembers.

“Having the young kids, I thought what a great opportunity to involve the whole family and learn,” Rayala said. “So far it’s been really good. The kids get a lot of questions at school from teachers and friends.”

The competition to sustainability between the idols and individuals within the community doesn’t stop at city limits. The four Duluth Idols families also compete against four other families in Thunder Bay, Canada.

The Climate Idols program is presented by Duluth Sister Cities, Thunder Bay Sister Cities, and coaches in Växjö Sweden.

The Transportation phase of the challenge will run until June 15, 2011.

What are you doing to help the environment? Have you been involved with the Climate Idols challenge? Let us know in the comments.

Union workers protest non-union hiring in Canal Park

Women’s Resource and Action Center raises awareness about sexual abuse through Take Back the Night